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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The September 2003 entrée: Whit Haydn » » Magic and Lying » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Whit Haydn
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Does every magic trick contain a lie of some kind?
Bilwonder
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I think of lying as essentially a verbal act. "Magic" is a more overall experience open to interpretation. When see planets hang on nothing in the sky, see a mirage in the dessert, or see a magician hang something on "nothing"...that is not a lie...even if what I choose to believe about it is not true. However, many "magic trick" routines are constructed to "tell a lie." So although not "all" magic tricks contain a lie...most probably do.
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"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." Mark Twain
Whit Haydn
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If I choose to deceive you by showing my hands open and empty, with a smile on my face, when I actually have a knife or some other weapon hidden behind my wrist, isn't that a lie of some sort?

Isn't every deliberate act of deception a lie? I don't think lies have to be verbal.
Bilwonder
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"Isn't every deliberate act of deception a lie? "

It's a fine line, I suppose. To make all deception lying presumes your non verbal "dialogue." Most magic would fall into this, but I don't think "all." When you give form to the veiwers delusions through illusion you are most accurately "truth telling."
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"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." Mark Twain
Dr_Gonzo
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If it is, magicians are liars that tell you they're going to do it. We intend to deceive, but unlike the majority of lies ours is expected, and the expectation is acknowledge by both parties. It may not be the precise words or actions ("my hand is empty") that the audience knows to be a deception, but they are aware deception is involved.
Kronos9326
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The intent is important. Quite frankly, magic wouldn't be all that magical if we had to tell the truth all the time.

I have no problem with putting words inside my spectators minds, and an even less problem with lying to them. I am out to deceive them, but I am not trying to take anything FROM them, instead I am trying to GIVE them something in a manner that is not apparent until everything is said and done.

That's how I justify it. I also have a friend who is a pastor, and have talked to him about the lying issue, and he has no problem with it either, because the intent is not to do harm, but to bring about a good feeling in one manner or another.

David.
Geoff Latta
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Whit,

I think every sleight is a lie, i.e., "I'm going to put the coin here" but I don't, or I switch it for another, etc. In good sleight of hand, though, you lie with more than your words; you do it with your whole body, your attitude, everything. I've always thought of it this way. In fact, in the trick I've opened with for the last 30-odd years, I even say at one point (after a number of things have happened and everything is about to change for the climax) "I have a confession to make. I've been lying to you. But you you can't get mad at me; it's my job." Said in a friendly, tongue in cheek kind of way.

In fact there's one trick I do where literally everything is a lie; i.e., not a single action or word that comes out of my mouth is real, true, or what it seems to be. I love that trick, though it's hard to do. Maintaining conviction through a lengthy series of false actions and misrepresentations is tough. The trick is a fooler, though.

I don't think of it as an ethical issue, though.

Best,

Geoff
"There is a thin line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line." --Oscar Levant
Pete Biro
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Jerry Andrus NEVER LIES and he does quite well. He cannot even say, "I'll put YOUR card here." if it isn't their card, he will say "I'll put THE card here." Smile
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
KingStardog
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When heat rises from the desert, or a shadow loses focus at night and seems to move...is that a lie? Deception?
seem like magic to primitive people? Magic is the altering of perceptions. Like Pete's example,if you chose to lie to re enforce the perception, it is a choice, and many do not actively make the choice to do so.
...think not that all wisdom is in your school. You may have studied other paths,but, it is important to remember that no matter who you are or where you come from, there is always more to learn.
S2000magician
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There are active lies and passive lies.

When Jerry Andrus says "I'll put the card here" he knows full well that the spectator believes that it is his card, and Jerry does nothing to disabuse him of that belief; that is a passive lie.

Whit, to answer your question: Of course!

I've often thought that I should have "Professional Liar" on the back of my business cards.

True, I'd have to field the questions from those who then think I'm a politician. Smile

(Having the same name as the Mayor of Atlanta or a former California State Assemblyman simply complicates matters.)
carlb
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Interesting thread...

I thought about (and maybe will eventually get around to) coming up with a presentation for an effect (coins across for instance) where I tell the audience exactly what I am really doing i.e. you think I only have three coins but actually I am cleverly concealing one coin in my apparently empty hands - "it appears as if one coin has actually travelled from this hand to this hand, but really I am showing you the extra coin...etc." In my imagination this presentation still gets excellent audience reaction...so I'm not sure that we NEED to lie.

From another angle:

Is acting "lying" - if we are "actors playing the part of a magician" am I lying? Is art a lie? If you do magic as a mime - is that lying or presenting visual entertainment?

And another:

Get over it. Yes, magic is deception and lying - but as stated above intention is everything. I have actually said something like this to my kids on several occassions: "There is no such thing as a bad word, only bad intentions. You can deliver ANY phrase in a way that will hurt someone or make their life better. Try always to make things better - but don't get hung up about the words you use. Remember, however, some people are offended by certain words, always try to respect others feelings and beliefs." Release the guilt, your magic will be better.
Maestro
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Performing magic is sort of like writing a fantasy novel. Nobody says the author is lying when he writes a story that never actually happened in real life. Instead, people know he is trying to create something, an effect on the reader. If the writer is good enough, he can make the story real to the reader even though they realize it is fantasy. I think we are trying to do the same thing in magic. Smile
Musashi
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Hmm.

Does EVERY magic trick contain a lie?

Some people feel so. I know my wife does for one. She very much dislikes magic for it's deceptive nature. She feels like she is blatantly being lied to, and therefore gets no enjoyment from it...at all.

Do magicians belive so?

I do.

Magic is an act. It is facilitated by misdirection, props, patter, technique that aimed at one goal...to create something that cannot be.

That is a lie.

And think about it for a second. What is our greatest thrill as a magician....fooling people! (Okay entertaining, but we entertain by fooling!)

Josh
"Care for a Jelly Baby?"
Whit Haydn
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I vaguely remember an ancient latin phrase, which goes something like "Populus vult decipii" (someone please correct my latin, it's been thirty years) which means "People want to be deceived."

Seneca in the first century wrote about how much he loved watching the street performers do magic, especially the cups and balls. He said "If I get to know how a trick is done, I lose all interest in it."

Magic, the kind we like today, is very old, and still the same. It is a game of deceit, played for fun, that excites the imagination. Lying is lying. But a lie told for one purpose may not be evil, where a lie told for another is very wrong.

I grew up in Tennessee, where since the days of Davey Crockett, swapping lies was a form of innocent amusement.

I think every magic trick involves a lie of some sort. A deliberate, convincing lie. I don't think it is immoral or wrong. It is a celebration of a uniquely human quality, the trickster in all of us.
dorbolo
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Whit,

In philosophy, deception is genarally considered a broader concept than lying. So, not all deception is a lie.

Sissla Bok's books "Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life" (Pantheon Books: l978; Vintage paperback editions, l979, 1989, 1999) and "Secrets: on the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation" (Pantheon Books: l982; Vintage paperback editions, l984, 1989) are excellent sources on this distinction. Perhaps you have read them. Bok maintains that lying requires the intent to lie (since it is the disjunction of belief and assertion), while deception can occur without the intention to deceive. For instance, an optical illusion is deceptive, but not a lie (in this sense). I think that Jerry Andrus makes something like this distinction in his magic. As Pete says, the man simply will not lie. He designs optical illusions and his coin and card magic operates as a sort of optical illusion.

I taught a course on the Philosophy of Lying for several years. I have a good library of literature on the topic. If this interests you, I'd gladly send some sources.

In good spirit,

Jon
Steve Brooks
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Interesting to note that performers such as David Copperfield will often address the audience with a phrase such as; "I want to show you my latest illusion..."
From the very begining, they have let the audience know that what they are about to see is a lie of sorts. So, are they still lying? Hmmm... Smile
"Always be you because nobody else can" - Steve Brooks
Uli Weigel
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Hi Whit,
the latin phrase you mentioned is this: "Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur". Translation (roughly): The world wants to be deceived. Therefore the world shall be deceived.
Bill Palmer
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Shortly after my translation of Punx's book "Magical Adventures and Fairy Tales" was released, Punx and his wife Dagmar spent a week with me in Houston. We had many discussions of the various aspects of magic. At one point, I said, "We are all liars."

Punx roared, "NO, WE ARE NOT LIARS, WE ARE STORYTELLERS." And there is a difference.

If we are running a con, yes, we are liars. If we are entertaining people, we are storytellers.

Some are better than others.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Pete Biro
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Our recent past president said it's not a lie if it is about sex? Smile
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Whit Haydn
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Uli: Thank you so much for the latin phrase I was reaching for. I hope that my latin paraphrase wasn't too incorrectly formulated.
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The September 2003 entrée: Whit Haydn » » Magic and Lying » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes)
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